In less than three weeks time the results of the biggest literature prize in the Czech Republic, the Magnesia Litera, will be announced and excitement has been rising since the announcement of the nominated books last month. The prize is unusual in that it has nine different categories including, apart from fiction and poetry, books for young readers, non-fiction and best translation. As well as winners in each category an overall "best book" is also chosen. Given the vast number of books under consideration, judging the competition is a mammoth
In the Czech Republic and increasingly even abroad, violinist Pavel Šporcl enjoys the kind of name recognition that aspiring rock stars dream of. A natural talent, he became the enfant terrible of the classical music world when first he arrived on the scene, forgoing a tuxedo for a bandana and taking an interactive approach to his concerts. Having toured the world over and recorded roughly a dozen albums, 36-year-old Pavel Šporcl is not only a dominant but a defining force in classical music. I met Pavel as he was preparing for a concert, and asked
Dům u Rotta is one of the most famous buildings by Prague’s Old Town Square, with a facade dating back to 1890 but foundations going back six hundred years. For a century-and-a-half the Neo-Renaissance building was the home of the famous Rott hardware store, but later was turned into a delicatessen and then a glassware and crystal seller. Now, an announced change: the site will soon reopen as a famous international franchise, the Hard Rock Café.
TV dramas in the Czech Republic often aren’t bad, but occasionally something comes along which is a head above the rest. Last autumn, it was a dramatic series on commercial broadcaster Nova, entitled Soukromé pasti (Private Traps). 12 separate stories centering on characters in everyday dilemmas - which critics praised for excellent writing, acting and psychological depth. The project was overseen by filmmaker Tereza Kopáčová, one of the best-known names in the Czech TV business. Her work and Soukromé pasti are the subject of this Panorama.
The 1960s had seen a thriving musical scene in Czechoslovakia, which had been broadly tolerated by the regime, especially during the 1968 Prague Spring. With the political clampdown of the early 70s, rock and pop music were also to suffer. But this was a gradual process, and, initially at least, the communist authorities were careful not to go too far to alienate young people.
More than 700 different cultural events have been planned to coincide with the Czech Republic’s EU presidency. While a lot of these concerts and exhibitions are taking place in the Czech Republic itself, another major centre of activity is, it goes without saying, Brussels. In his role as the head of the Czech Center in the Belgian capital, Petr Polívka has his work cut out. I spoke to him at the opening of a new exhibition at the center last week:
One of the biggest hits with audiences at the One World film festival, which came to a close in Prague on Thursday night, was Japan: A Story of Love and Hate. It is a portrait of a non-conformist, fifty-something ‘kept man’ whose much younger girlfriend holds down three jobs, including being paid to talk to men in bars. While very funny, the documentary also offers a fascinating insight into Japan’s rigid culture, including scenes of workers whose day begins with obligatory exercises and chants about achieving targets. I asked its English director